Sorry I couldn't resist. Though my photo mashup skills may be weak, the surprising success of T. Boone Pickens in rallying people to the green energy cause is anything but. This week (April 1-3) he will lead a virtual march of over 3 million anti-oil crusaders to help get the Pickens Plan message across -- the fastest way to get off foreign oil is to transition to natural gas.  

Though Pickens is certainly no Aragorn (maybe closer to a half Gandalf, half Saruman?) he has succeeded where Al Gore (hmmm... Boromir?) could not, even though Al Gore has outspent him about 3:1.

While the WE campaign with its looming threat of melting icebergs seems only to be further alienating people from the cause (sadly only about 60 percent of the population now thinks it's a significant threat, a drop of about 7 percent in the last 2 years), Pickens has side-stepped the land mine of white-collar, blue-state environmental rhetoric by focusing on one issue -- independence from foreign oil.

This has enabled him to gain supporters for what is arguably a "green" campaign in the least likely of places -- the red state heart of middle America (The Ghost Army?... sorry too late to turn back from my analogy).

When I met Pickens a few weeks ago at the ECO:nomics summit (you can read my encounter here) I was surprised by a couple of things. First, he is very aware of the climate problem and thinks it is absolutely the second most important problem we face. The first problem he believes, is our ever-escalating dependence on foreign oil (now 2/3 of our total supply). The economic and geopolitical threats associated with importing oil are leading us into an economic and environmental train wreck which could make our current problems look like hobbit's play.

Second, he is also very aware of the power of the internet. He told me (paraphrasing) 'I got all the money in the world, but when I got a million online supporters, suddenly Washington wanted to talk.' Using a MoveOn style online pledge form and a real-time counter of signees (the WE campaign has about 2.2 million), he is galvanizing people form both ends of the political spectrum.

Pickens also has critics from both sides. The coal & oil industries and right wing think tanks (for instance FFF) want him to shut it, while many environmentalists think his plan is a ploy to funnel government money into his pockets so he can exploit his vast empire of untapped natural gas resources.

Is it a final solution to climate change? Absolutely not.

Natural gas produces about 50% less CO2 than coal for electricity generation and only about 20% less CO2 when turned into a motor fuel (according to Jim Rogers of Duke Energy who is a critic of the plan). But considering the enormity of the risk associated with burning so much coal and oil, it is starting to sound like the best transitional strategy we have.

The Pickens Plan may just buy us the 10 years we need to ramp up renewables (which need a whole lot of ramping up). And it may also buy us something equally valuable -- the opportunity for environmentalists and republicans to be on the same team for ONCE. 

We won't be holding hands, but like Aragorn's army of ghosts, men and elves (that would be us Californians) we might not mind killing a few orcs together.

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